‘We Know the Value That They Have’: Tequila Mockingbird’s New Owners To Keep High-Quality Staff, Upbeat Vibe

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The new owners of Tequila Mockingbird say they’re eager to continue the iconic Forest Street restaurant’s strong 25-year run and that means maintaining not only high-quality Mexican food but also great service.

Tequila Mockingbird in New Canaan. Credit: Michael Dinan

“We know the value of the people that have worked there for so many years,” said New Canaan resident Paul Tully, part of the ownership group at Tequila Mockingbird.

“We now the relationships that they have with the people in town and that, quite honestly is part of the purchase. We hoped—because we could not guarantee that all team members stayed—because in the back of my mind, they’re part of what makes it so great.”

Tully and his partners acquired half of Tequila Mockingbird in the spring of 2015, when the group purchased Gates Restaurant next door, and bought the other half at the end of 2016. The restaurant’s original owner, Paul Mauk of New Canaan, continued as proprietor at Tequila through a transition period that ended last month, Tully said.

Tequila Mockingbird in New Canaan.

“We have been in full ownership and now we’re in full management, and we intend to keep the staff as-is there,” he said. “There are a few staff members who decided to go on hopefully to greener pastures, one bartender and one of the chefs in kitchen, and we wish them luck. That’s one of those transitional things you have to be prepared for.”

The restaurant’s executive chef remains, Tully said, and unlike Gates—where an update was needed—the familiar colors and lively atmosphere at Tequila are continuing.

“We love the success, the concept of Mexican, and it has a great team,” he said. “It’s one of those places where you go in, the waitresses and bartenders know the people they’re talking to, they know the drinks and dishes.”

He continued: “Ultimately with Gates we wanted to enliven the restaurant. We felt it had reached a point where it was dying slowly on the vine—and if you’ve ever seen a piece of fruit or tomato die on a vine, it starts to deteriorate. The owners had grown tired and it needed an injection of capital that they were not willing to do and we were willing to do. So we want to own it for the next two decades or three or whatever you want to call it.”

Tully said he was eager for fellow residents and community stakeholders to know that Tequila Mockingbird is to continue as much as possible just as it is in order to dispel any rumors about new chefs or other staff coming in.

“I didn’t buy two restaurants lightly, we did this very seriously because I am involved in the community—I have three girls in school here and in the sports systems, I’m out and about, so I want to be upfront and let everybody know the right story,” he said.

2 thoughts on “‘We Know the Value That They Have’: Tequila Mockingbird’s New Owners To Keep High-Quality Staff, Upbeat Vibe

  1. What was done to Gates is so unfortunate. They took a warm, inviting, comfortable restaurant and made it so you don’t want to stay long. Loud noises from the open kitchen and hard chairs make it clear they want to move people in and out quickly. It was unique in design, and now it’s ugly, with all those hard surfaces that make it so cold. They lost us as customers, but we will continue to visit Tequila as long as it stays the same charming restaurant.

    • Sorry, but totally disagree. I’ve known new owners for 20+ years and they are winners who are trying to reinvigorate two classic spots in town. Having grown up here and now living in NC with 3 kids, I am pumped to have these guys at the helm of Tequila and Gates. Good things will happen, wait and see!

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